Creamy Asparagus Pasta

Creamy Asparagus Pasta

It might not be asparagus season anymore and I guess we’re pretty far from it now, huh?  So far from it that it feels like it will be asparagus season again in a few months!  I may be exaggerating, but it is getting cold out and even though I’ve been craving all things creamy and comforting, I just can’t give up on the warmer season veggies all together – not yet, anyway!  I had to get in one last spring/summer vegetable fix before I devote my kitchen to entirely to chili, hearty soups and all things squash!Creamy Asparagus Pasta

I had to merge my desire for summery vegetables with my need for comfort food…in comes this Creamy Asparagus Pasta!  I proclaimed my mad love for asparagus when I posted my Parmesan Asparagus Frittata earlier this year and even though I get completely bombarded by asparagus from my parent’s garden in spring, I just can’t get enough of it!  Did you know that established plants can keep  producing for up to 8 weeks?  That’s crazy!  I continue to crave this tasty veggie long after the stalks have stopped coming in and I must give into those cravings!  I love it grilled, or sauteed and topped with parmesan, but I think this pasta is a new favorite!Creamy Asparagus Pasta

I started  with a simple creamy alfredo sauce recipe, added a hint of lemon and some chopped asparagus, and ended up with an amazingly delicious dinner that I could eat any day of the year.  Yes, this was the perfect way to transition from fresh summer veggies to creamy and comforting!  I usually reserve something as heavy as a cream sauce for the colder months, but the subtle hint of lemon makes this dish feel light enough to enjoy even on warm days!  This sauce reheats very well, so I always make extra to pack in the hubby’s lunch!

Pasta with Asparagus and Cream Sauce

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 lb asparagus, rinsed and chopped
  • 8 oz. spaghetti noodles (1/2 package)
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 4 T butter
  • 3/4 cup milk, warmed
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Boil pasta according to package directions.
  2. Add cream cheese to a saucepan over low heat. When it begins to melt, add butter. Melt over low heat and whisk to combine. It will not combine until completely melted, you may need to use a spatula to help incorporate it.
  3. Add the warmed milk, slowly and the remaining ingredients. Whisk to combine. Cook over medium low heat for about 7 minutes. It should be slightly thinner than you want it, as it will thicken upon cooling.
  4. Meanwhile, add asparagus and a small amount of water to a large frypan and cook over medium low heat until tender. Drain the water from the pan.
  5. Add sauce and pasta to pan and toss to coat. Sprinkle with dried thyme, if desired. Serve warm.
http://paintchipsandfrosting.com/2013/10/02/creamy-asparagus-pasta/

Parmesan Asparagus Frittata

Parmesan Asparagus FrittataSpring is my favorite time of year!  There are so many things that I love about this season.  Sundresses, birds chirping, bright green grass, and of course asparagus.  Asparagus that can be made into a tasty asparagus frittata!  So delicious!  Did you know that May is National Asparagus Month?  Go grab a bunch and get cooking!Parmesan Asparagus FrittataParmesan Asparagus Frittata

I actually hated asparagus as a kid.  That’s probably because It is abundant at my parents’ house and we ate it all the time growing up.  Like every night.  Dinner was usually something on the grill, asparagus and spinach salad.  I also detested spinach salad for many years.  It really wasn’t until about five or six years ago that I started to love vegetables as much as I do.  I would turn my nose up at tomatoes or raw mushrooms and now I basically eat them by the pint!  That has been a really beneficial part of growing up, especially as a vegetarian, because it was difficult to eat the right way when I was so picky!  I’m glad that stage is behind me, but I still gag if I get a mouthful of mustard and can not stomach a green olive.  Ick.Parmesan Asparagus Frittata

This asparagus fritatta is a wonderful breakfast or brunch meal, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t make it for dinner too!  Light and fluffy eggs, a touch of salty parmesan and wonderfully tender asparagus.  I used a feta asparagus frittata recipe from Taste of Home as a starting point.  I used parmesan instead of feta and decreased the eggs so it would more easily feed two.  I served it with a fruit salad and we still had some leftovers!  If you add some chopped ham, or serve with a breakfast meat,  I really think you could make this serve up to four!Parmesan Asparagus Frittata

Asparagus Frittata

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 2-3 servings

Ingredients

  • 5 eggs
  • 11-12 asparagus spears
  • 2 Tbsp onion, minced or finely chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan
  • 2 T grated parmesan
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut the woody ends from asparagus spears and discard.
  2. In a bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper, grated parmesan, and all but a handful of shredded parmesan and set aside.
  3. Add asparagus and a small amount of water to a large skillet a cook over over medium heat until crisp-tender.
  4. Drain water from pan and remove stalks. Cut each spear to half the length of the pan you intend to bake the fritatta in. Leave the end with the tip whole, but finely dice the ends.
  5. Add diced asparagus, onions, and oil to skillet. Cook over medium heat for several minutes, until onions are fragrant.
  6. Add egg mixture and and cook 3-5 minutes, until nearly set. Arrange remaining stalks on top of eggs and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for 7-8 minutes, until completely set.
http://paintchipsandfrosting.com/2013/05/16/asparagus-frittata/

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Cucumber Tomato SaladThe weather was so amazing over the past few days; it was perfect for my weekend off of work!  Sunshine and warm temperatures called for a light summery dinner out in the sun.  I whipped up this cucumber tomato salad and enjoyed a lovely dinner on the balcony with my husband.  This is such a quick and simple recipe that you can easily adapt to fit your family’s taste!  I had the Noodles & Co. cucumber tomato salad in mind when I came up with this recipe, and while it is similar in concept, it tastes quite different.  As I always do, I used what I could find in my kitchen and of course I had to add feta; it makes everything better!  Cucumber Tomato Salad

I like to use oil and vinegar to marinade my vegetables because I love the tartness the vegetables have after they’ve been soaking in vinegar.  After marinating, I pour out the excess and toss the vegetables in an Italian vinaigrette for a great flavor boost.  One of my favorites is Kraft’s Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette. You could use a vinaigrette to marinade your veggies for a milder taste or skip the viniagrette altogether and just use oil and vinegar.  You could mix in anything from black or greek olives, to avocado chunks, or even quinoa.

Cucumber Tomato Salad

This recipe is full of my favorite things!  As I said before, I used my favorite vinaigrette, and then grape tomatoes are my favorite tomato, feta is one of my favorite cheeses, and cucumbers are my favorite vegetable.  Speaking of cucumbers, have you ever tried cucumber vodka? I LOVE IT!  It’s so refreshing and crisp mixed with soda water or 7-up.  I’ve had it with cranberry juice too, and while I liked it, my husband did not share my opinion and we agreed it was best served as a cucumber press with half soda water – half 7-up).  The colors in this salad are gorgeous too!  It’s hard to beat garden fresh vegetables with a tangy vinaigrette and a salty bite of feta in my book!

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Yield: 4-5 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium cucumbers, roughly peeled and chopped
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1/3 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Italian vinaigrette

Instructions

  1. Mix tomato, cucumber, and onion in a bowl or plastic bag with vinegar, oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Cover and let marinade in refrigerator for a couple hours.
  2. When ready to serve, take the marinading vegetables out of the fridge. You have two options here: you can either pour out the bit of vinegar and oil that is left in the mix first, or just add the vinaigrette and feta and give it a toss.
http://paintchipsandfrosting.com/2013/04/29/cucumber-tomato-salad/

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili

I had to scrape the frost off of my car windows yesterday morning.  What the heck, spring!? This is just not okay.  To cope with the little bit of a chill that’s been in the air, I made up a big batch of hearty vegetarian chili.  Chili and soup weather is almost out the door (thankfully), so I figured I might as well make the best of it by making (and eating!) lots of warm comfort food, like this creamy potato muhsroom soup and brownie caramel cheesecake.   Okay, maybe brownie caramel cheesecake isn’t soup or chili, but it is definitely comforting!  It wont be long before I can put away the winter coats and wave goodbye to frosty windows, mountains of snow, and that annoying patch of ice in front of my door!Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili

I love this vegetarian chili recipe, and chili/soup recipes in general, because they are so easy to make.  Throw everything in a pot or slow-cooker and let it cook; it doesn’t get too much easier than that!  You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, or add chicken or beef.  This was the first time I added cinnamon and cocoa powder to chili, and it added a subtle depth to the flavor that really took this recipe to the next level.

Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili

I usually add a box of macaroni noodles when I make this vegetarian chili, but this time I decided not to.  Do you want know what I did instead?  I mixed the leftovers with leftover baked mac and cheese I had in the fridge and packaged it up for the husband and my lunches.  It was super delicious and cheesy!  We all know that mac and cheese doesn’t reheat the greatest and this was the perfect solution!Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Chili  

Vegetarian Chili

Prep Time: 15 hours

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Yield: 5-7 servings

1 1/2 cup

Ingredients

  • 1 14.5 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes and juice
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • Sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and chopped green onions for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions begin to turn translucent.
  2. Add the onions and garlic to your slow-cooker, followed by the rest of the ingredients and give it all a mix.
  3. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, or on low for 7-8 hours.
  4. Spoon into bowls and top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onions.

Notes

You can add the onions and garlic raw if you'd like, the flavor of will be slightly stronger. You can use tomato sauce or stock/broth/water instead of tomato juice; add enough to just cover the vegetables. You could also prepare this on the stove, just cook the onions and garlic in your soup pot, add the remaining ingredients and simmer until vegetables are tender.

http://paintchipsandfrosting.com/2013/04/04/vegetarian-chili/

Spinach Pizza Quinoa Casserole

Spinach Pizza Quinoa CasseroleI love quinoa.  Why?  More like why not!  It’s full of protein, fiber, iron, calcium, phosphorus and- yeah yeah, we all know it’s super healthy.  But what I really love is the texture it adds to a dish; whether it’s cold, tossed with pesto and veggies, or smothered in cheese and baked into a warm casserole.  It’s so versatile and and can be substituted for pasta or rice in almost anything.  This is especially important to me, being a vegetarian who doesn’t care much for milk or nuts…to have a superfood like quinoa with all those essentials?  Yes, please!   What’s your favorite way to eat quinoa?

This quinoa and spinach pizza casserole was fabulous!  It was cheesy and flavorful, and the leftovers held up great in the fridge for reheating as weekday lunch!  It’s even compatible with children and picky eaters because the flavors of the tomato sauce and spices are so powerful.  This dish is a winner!

Spinach Pizza Quinoa CasseroleSpinach Pizza Quinoa Casserole

Spinach Pizza Quinoa Casserole

Yield: 9 servings / Prep Time: 15 minutes / Cook Time: 30 minutes

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 16 oz tomato sauce
  • 2 cups frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • optional: cheese for topping (I used shredded cheddar and slices of mozzarella)
  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.  While it is cooking, chop your vegetables and thaw your spinach.  Let the quinoa sit for five minutes while you combine the vegetables and seasoning.
  2. Preheat oven  to 350.
  3. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix to combine.  Add quinoa and mix again.  Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.  Pour into a 8×8 baking dish and cover with cheese.
  4. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes covered, uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes until cheese is completely melted.Spinach Pizza Quinoa Casserole

Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

lentilsoupIf you’ve seen my recent posts, you know that the amount of treats coming out of my kitchen over the past few weeks is completely unnecessary.  I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed it, but  I have to make up for that unhealthy eating.  There’s no better way than with this great lentil soup, loaded with some of my favorite vegetables and mustard greens for a nutritional boost.  It turned out great, mild in flavor, with just the right ratio of broth to vegetable.  That said, I like a broth-y soup, but you could always reduce the liquid if you wanted it to be heartier.Lentil Soup with Mustard GreensLentil Soup with Mustard GreensLentil Soup with Mustard Greens

Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens:

Yield: 8-10 servings / Prep Time: 10 minutes / Cook Time: 45-60 minutes

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 3/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed
  • 9 cups water or stock
  • 4 cups mustard greens, stemmed and torn
  1. Heat olive oil in your soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook until onions are translucent (~5 minuties).
  2. Add water and the remaining ingredients to the pot.
  3. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  4. Simmer for 30-35 minutes, until lentils are tender.

Notes:  You can use stock/broth instead of water, I wanted a milder taste, so I stuck with water.  You can also reduce the water down to 7 cups if you like a heartier soup versus a brothy soup.  This recipe makes a lot of soup, but it freezes well, and can be kept up to two months in the freezer.  You can freeze it in an airtight tupperware, plastic bags, or mason jars.  Make sure that if you use a jar, you let it first cool in the fridge (if you cool glass too rapidly, it can break).Lentil Soup with Mustard Greens

Country White Bread

Country White BreadIf you follow my blog, you might have noticed that I’ve been experimenting with lots of bread recipes in the past few months.  I found this one at Pennies & Pancakes and thought it looked wonderful.   If you haven’t made homemade bread before, there’s an extensive tutorial for this recipe, complete with detailed instructions and step-by-step photos.  I halved the recipe and baked it in two 8×3 loaf pans the first time I made it, but I’ve also baked it in a 9×5 pan.  The photos are from the 8×3, so they look small, but I used the larger loaf when I made bananas foster french toast.  I was really pleased with this recipe and will definitely continue to use it for a white sandwich bread.  I would like to try substituting half the flour with whole wheat flour and maybe adding honey (I’ll update you as soon as I do!).Country White BreadCountry White Bread

Country White Bread (yield 1 9×5 loaf, 2 8×3 loaves)

  • 1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp oil
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  1. Dissolve sugar and yeast in water and let set for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the oil, then 3 cups of flour, mix it a little, then add the salt.
  3. Mix thoroughly and then knead until dough is smooth, elastic, and a tad sticky (6-10 minutes).  You can do this by hand or in a stand mixer with dough hook.
  4. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel and let rise until doubled.  I placed mine in a warm oven with a bowl of water on the bottom rack and let it rise for about 1 hour.
  5. Punch dough down and knead for another minute or so.  Divide it in half and form each half into a loaf.
  6. Cover with a dishtowel and let it rise until the dough is about 1-2 inches above the top of the pan (about an hour for me).
  7. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.  Remove from pans and allow to cool on a wire rack.Country White Bread

Creamy Potato Mushroom Soup

Creamy Potato Mushroom Soup via elisebakesI have a love-hate relationship with Wisconsin winters.  Last week was way too cold, today it’s in the 50s, and it’s supposed to drop down and snow again tomorrow – could we get some consistency, please!  I absolutely love sledding and snowball fights, but I could do with only a month of snow.  And I hate driving on icy roads.  Love it or hate it, it’s here and at least I get to enjoy soup!  Well, I did yesterday, like I said, today it’s too nice out for soup!  I made creamy potato mushroom soup and it was phenomenal.  It had a great flavor and lots of mushrooms!  You could make it in a slow cooker too if you’d rather.

Creamy Potato Mushroom Soup via elisebakesCreamy Potato Mushroom Soup via elisebakes

Creamy Potato Mushroom Soup (8 servings, adapted from Potato Mushroom Soup)

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 16 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Melt butter in large stock pot over medium-high heat and add mushrooms and onions.  Cook about 10 minutes, until onions become translucent.
  2. Add flour and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and cook for 45 minutes.
  4. Top with sour cream and shredded cheese if desired and serve!Creamy Potato Mushroom Soup via elisebakes

Lemon Pesto Baked Tilapia

Lemon Pesto Baked Tilapia via elisebakes 
I’m a pescatarian, but I rarely eat seafood – mostly because I really don’t care for that fishy taste.  OOh, but I do love a good beer-battered fish fry.   I’m from Wisconsin, so that’s second nature!  Regardless, this just may be the best way I have ever eaten fish.  My husband and I were both ooh-ing and ahh-ing  throughout dinner.  It was juicy and tender, with a hint of lemon and pesto.  The breadcrumbs on top added a slight crunch that gave it just the right amount of added texture.  The only change I would make for next time is to up the pesto for a total of 2 tsp to give it a little more of a pesto flavor.

Lemon Pesto Baked Tilapia via elisebakesLemon Pesto Baked Tilapia via elisebakes

Lemon Pesto Baked Tilapia:

  • 2 tilapia fillets
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tsp pesto
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp Italian style breadcrumbs
  • pinch salt and pepper
  1. Mix everything (except the fillets) together in a small bowl.
  2. Turn oven to broil and line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  3. Broil fillets for 2 minutes, then flip them and broil for an additional 2 minutes.  The flipping is much easier with a spatula.  Flip them again, and spread the lemon-pesto mixture over the top, sprinkle with additional Italian breadcrumbs if desired (I highly recommend this to add texture).
  4. Broil for 2-3 minutes, or until fish is cooked and flakes apart nicely.

Light and Fluffy French Loaf

French Loaf via elisebakesI’ve been on a bread-making kick lately.  I think in part, I just realized the economical benefits of baking my own bread…and then, I obviously love the taste of warm bread, fresh out of the oven – not to mention the lovely smell that wafts through each room!  This french loaf was softer and fluffier than the last one I made.  The crust wasn’t as ‘crusty’ or hard (it was just hardly crisp), but that made it less like an actual french bread and more like wide sub bread.  Maybe if I had baked it a little longer it would have had a harder crust, but really I loved it just the way it was – I just wouldn’t necessarily call it a french bread.French Loaf via elisebakesFrench Loaf via elisebakes

French Loaf (from food.com)

    • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)
    • 1/4 cup warm water
    • 1/4 tsp sugar
    • 1 cup hot waterFrench Loaf via elisebakes
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
    • 1/2 Tbsp salt
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 2 1/2 – 3 cups flour
  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine hot water, sugar, salt and oil.  Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix well.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and stir.
  4. Add 1 – 1 1/2 cups more flour and mix until well blended; it will be sticky.  Cover bowl with a dishtowel and let rise for an hour, mixing a few strokes every 15 mins.
  5. Divide the dough into 2 or 3 pieces and roll each out to desired length.  Then roll up lengthwise like a jelly roll and place sealed side down on a greased cookie sheet.
  6. Slash the top diagonally every couple inches with a sharp knife.  Brush with egg white.
  7. Preheat oven to 400.  Let loaves rise for 30 minutes, then bake for 25-30 mins.